Spectral Visitors Abound in 122-Year-Old Building
About once a month, spectral researchers tiptoe through the Geiser Grand Hotel, investigating the 122-year-old building and the paranormal visitors who may or may not reside beyond its highly ornamented Victorian chandeliers. According to believers, Grandma Annabelle never gave up room 302, and unseen merrymakers can be heard clinking glasses and laughing when no one is around. Whether fact or fiction, each otherworldly report draws curious guests deeper into the Geiser Grand Hotel's story.
Designed by architect John Bennes and now on the National Register of Historic Places, the Geiser Grand Hotel was built in 1889 from the spoils of the area's gold rush. The lavish fortress attracted the well-heeled, who dined on lobster suppers, as well as whiskey-loaded cowboys, who fired rounds at the iconic clock tower. Lobsters still make an appearance on the Geiser Grand Restaurant's menu, flown in live from Maine about once a month, but the trouble-making gunslingers have either faded away or become sports mascots. Thirty guestrooms spread throughout the second and third floors, each spacious chamber setting antique furnishings against modern amenities such as cable TV and wireless Internet. Crystal chandeliers dangle from the ceilings, and lace-draped, 10-foot windows allow natural light, while mountain vistas make for picturesque wake-up calls.
A tour guide dressed in an old-fashioned blouse and a feathered hat leads groups around the balcony overlooking the Palm Court, holding her audience rapt, their necks craned upward. "The artist who designed the new stained-glass ceiling in the Palm Court—he was afraid of heights!" The acrophobic craftsman she speaks of—using a design pattern dictated to him from the memory of a local old-timer—had glass bits shipped to him from as far away as Poland and then directed a braver soul to assemble the kaleidoscopic puzzle that now rests above the awed spectators.
Baker City: Beauty and History in Small-Town Oregon
"Baker City's kinda big. It's got traffic lights," says Dave from the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center—traffic lights whose initial installation was funded thanks to a 1920s tax on the hotel's bordello services, which is another tale entirely. Baker City's population is just under 10,000, but the city boasts more than 100 buildings on the historic registry, which helped earn it a finalist position on Rand McNally and USA Today's Best of the Road "Most Beautiful Town" list.
Tagging along for Historic Baker City's self-guided walking tour is an educational way to spot some of these distinguished domiciles up close, but for an even more authentic eastern Oregon outing, travelers can clip-clop through the streets in a horse-drawn carriage. Ron Colton, dressed in a white button-up oxford and a white cowboy hat, takes folks on leisurely equestrian rambles around town or romantic rides through flocks of wild cherubs. In a friendly country drawl with leather reins in hand, Ron points out where he saw lightning strike the cross right off the roof of the old Catholic hospital.